Browsing by Author "Chan, Henry"

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  • Chan, Henry (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    This dissertation concerns the Punan Vuhang, former hunter-gatherers who are now part-time farmers living in an area of remote rainforest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It covers two themes: first, examining their methods of securing a livelihood in the rainforest, and second looking at their adaptation to a settled life and agriculture, and their response to rapid and large-scale commercial logging. This study engages the long-running debates among anthropologists and ecologists on whether recent hunting-gathering societies were able to survive in the tropical rainforest without dependence on farming societies for food resources. In the search for evidence, the study poses three questions: What food resources were available to rainforest hunter-gatherers? How did they hunt and gather these foods? How did they cope with periodic food shortages? In fashioning a life in the rainforest, the Punan Vuhang survived resource scarcity by developing adaptive strategies through intensive use of their knowledge of the forest and its resources. They also adopted social practices such as sharing and reciprocity, and resource tenure to sustain themselves without recourse to external sources of food. In the 1960s, the Punan Vuhang settled down in response to external influences arising in part from the Indonesian-Malaysian Confrontation. This, in turn, initiated a series of processes with political, economic and religious implications. However, elements of the traditional economy have remained resilient as the people continue to hunt, fish and gather, and are able to farm on an individual basis, unlike neighboring shifting cultivators who need to cooperate with each other. At the beginning of the 21st century, the Punan Vuhang face a new challenge arising from the issue of rights in the context of the state and national law and large-scale commercial logging in their forest habitat. The future seems bleak as they face the social problems of alcoholism, declining leadership, and dependence on cash income and commodities from the market.